Husband makes $3 million bequest to support student scholarships in honor of CU alumna

Lyttleton HarrisThe late Venita VanCaspel lived through the Great Depression in Oklahoma and worked several jobs while in college. Scholarships were invaluable to getting her degree in economics from the University of Colorado Boulder in 1948.

Because of a significant gift from her husband, future generations of CU Boulder students can look forward to similar support. Lyttleton "Lyt" Harris has established a planned gift of $3 million to fund an endowed scholarship program for CU Boulder economics students in honor of his wife who passed away in 2011.

At CU, VanCaspel was one of the first women to major in economics and was often the only female in her classes. VanCaspel's connection to CU continued after she graduated with honors; later she won the coveted George Norlin Award for outstanding alumni and served for more than a decade on the CU Economics Department's advisory board.

The couple loved to travel and each enjoyed distinguished careers. Harris was a marketing executive with Hunt-Wesson Foods where he was instrumental in making Orville Redenbacher's Gourmet Popping Corn a household name, while VanCaspel was an accomplished public speaker, author, host of the national PBS show Moneymakers, and she launched what would become the largest independently owned brokerage firm in Texas at the time.

They also enjoyed supporting philanthropic causes, Harris says. He decided to honor his wife's legacy by making a blended gift to her alma mater. A blended gift allows you to give a little now through an outright gift of cash and give a little later through a planned gift.

"I started thinking about, well, what am I going to do with our estate, and how am I going to put it to the best use," he says. "And education came back to mind, and I said, 'Well, why don't I do that?'

He believes in the importance of education and aiding those, like VanCaspel, who are eager to learn but need financial help. Harris will donate the majority of their estate, split evenly, to four colleges: Louisiana State University, University of Mississippi, Northwood University and CU Boulder. Each of the four endowments should generate $125,000 for scholarships annually.

"That's half a million dollars I'll be giving away in scholarships every year through four universities," Harris says, smiling. "We're talking about 20 or 30 recipients at each school every year forever."

You, too, can honor the legacy of someone you love by making a planned gift. To learn more, contact the Office of Gift Planning at (303) 541-1229 or giftplanning@cu.edu.

A longer version of this story originally published on Dec. 16, 2019. Read it here.